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Writing the Literary Analysis

Demystifying the process.

An analysis explains what a
work of literature means, and
how it means it.
How is a literary analysis
an argument?
 When writing a literary analysis, you will
focus on specific attribute(s) of the text(s).
 When discussing these attributes, you will
want to make sure that you are making a
specific, arguable point (thesis) about these
 You will defend this point with reasons and
evidence drawn from the text. (Much like a
How to Analyze a Story

 Essential Elements of the Story

 Structure of the Story
 Rhetorical Elements
 Meaning of the Story
How to Analyze a Story
 Meaning of the Story
 Identify the theme(s) and how the author
announces it.
 Explain how the story elements contribute
to the theme.
 Identify contextual elements (allusions,
symbols, other devices) that point beyond
the story to the author’s life/experience,
history or to other writings.
How to Analyze a Story
 Essential Elements of the Story
Theme: main idea—what the work adds up
Plot: Relationship and patterns of events
Characters: people the author creates
Including the narrator of a story or the speaker
of a poem
Setting: when and where the action happens
Point of View: perspective or attitude of the
narrator or speaker
 Main idea or underlying meaning of the
literary work.
What the author wants the reader to
understand about the subject
In fables, this may also be the moral of the
Sequence of
 All stories, literary essays, biographies,
and plays have a beginning, a middle,
and an end.
 Typically, the beginning is used to describe
the conflict/problem faced by the
 The middle is used to describe the climax or
crisis reached by the character/subject.
 The end is used to resolve the
conflict/problem and establish a theme.
Climax (conflict and tension reach a
peak, and characters realize their
mistake, etc.)

Rising Action
(conflict and
suspense Falling Action (conflict
build through gets worked out and
a series of tensions lessen.)

Exposition (conflict is
(characters, resolved and
setting, and themes are
conflict are established.)
What Are The Major What Are The Major What Are The Major
Events In The First Part Events In The Middle Part Events In The Last Part
Of The Narrative That Of The Narrative That Of The Narrative That
Describe The Describe The Describe The Resolution/
Problem/Conflict? Crisis/Climax? Solution To The
Types of Conflict
 person vs. person conflict
 events typically focus on differences in values, experiences,
and attitudes.
 person vs. society conflict
 the person is fighting an event, an issue, a philosophy, or a
cultural reality that is unfair,
 person vs. nature conflict
 the character is often alone dealing with nature in extreme
 person vs. fate/supernatural conflict
 the text is characterized by a person contending with an
omnipresent issue or idea.
 person vs. self conflict
 the person is conflicted with childhood memories, unpleasant
experiences, or issues with stress and decision-making.
Protagonist Three-dimensional personality
Main character Flat
Antagonist Only one or two striking
Character or force qualities—all bad or all good
that opposes the
main character
Grows and progress to a higher
Foil level of understanding
Character that Static
provides a contrast to
the protagonist Remains unchanged throughout
the story
How He/She How Others Feel
Acts/Feels About Him/Her


What He/She What

Looks Like He/She Says
What The Character Says Or What I Conclude About The
Does, A Quote From The Character Based On This
Character, A Detail About The Information (Focus On BIG,
Character, An Event From The Abstract Ideas, Not Concrete,
Story, Or A Comment About The Factual Information)
Character By Someone Else
 A character’s actions
 A character’s choices
 A character’s speech patterns
 A character’s thoughts and feelings
 A character’s comments
 A character’s physical appearance and name
 Other characters’ thoughts and feelings about
the character
 Other characters’ actions toward the character
 Time period  Instrumental in
 Geographical establishing mood
location  May symbolize the
 Historical and emotional state of
cultural context characters
 Social  Impact on
 Political characters’
 Spiritual motivations and
Historical Concepts Developed/ Events/Examples/Details That
Time Periods Revealed In This Time Support The Concepts/Ideas
Point of View
 First Person
 Narrator is a character within the story—reveals
own thoughts and feelings but not those of others
 Third Person
 Objective: narrator outside the story acts as a
reporter—cannot tell what characters are thinking
 Limited: narrator outside the story but can see into
the mind of one of the characters
 Omniscient: narrator is all-knowing outsider who can
enter the mind of more than one character.
How to Analyze a Story
Rhetorical Elements: Identify the
author’s use and explain their
 Foreshadowing
Use of hints or clues to suggest event that will
occur later in the story
Builds suspense—means of making the
narrative more believable
 Tone
Author’s attitude—stated or implied—toward
the subject
Revealed through word choice and details
Rhetorical Elements
 Mood
Climate of feeling in a literary work
Choice of setting, objects, details,
images, words
 Symbolism
Person, place, object which stand for
larger and more abstract ideas
American flag = freedom
Dove = peace
Rhetorical Elements
 Irony: contrast between what is
expected or what appears to be and
what actually is
Verbal Irony—contrast between what is
said and what is actually meant
Irony of Situation—an event that is the
opposite of what is expected or intended
Dramatic Irony—Audience or reader
knows more than the characters know
Rhetorical Elements
 Figurative Language: language that
goes beyond the literal meaning of
 A literary analysis is a paper that gives
a deep and illuminating explanation of
a literary work--it is a Critical
 We will learn how to formulate a deep
thesis, organize a paper coherently,
and use a number of different critical
Creating a Thesis
 The thesis should state the basic point you
want to communicate, oftentimes including
your main elements of support
 It should be clear and understandable
 It should be deep, something that not
everyone would think of
 It should be significant, something that the
majority of people interested in your text
would find helpful
 It should be new and original
Creating a Thesis
 Start by reading the text closely
 Craft a statement that summarizes your
thoughts about the text and responds
to the ideas of other critics—a working
 Modify your working thesis as you
continue to interact with your research
and the text
Creating a Thesis
 Don’t be afraid to modify your thesis even
after you’ve begun writing the body of your
paper—it’s better to change it than to have a
bad one
 Spend the body of your paper arguing that
your thesis provides an interpretation which
is clearly supported by the text.
 Do not deviate from discussion related to
your thesis
How do I support a
thesis statement?
Examples from the text
Direct quotations
Summaries of scenes/action
Other critics’ opinions
Historical and social context
Tips for Writing the Body
 Begin by finding common threads among the
items supporting your thesis—oftentimes,
writing an outline helps this process along
 Begin writing with the body, making sure that
each paragraph centers on one specific idea
 Make sure that the topic sentence of each
paragraph demonstrates a link between the
content of the paragraph and your thesis
 Remember to strive for
depth and significance
 Remember to center
your paper on your
 Remember to organize
your paragraphs Go hit a home
around a central theme
(your thesis)